The stock market finished the week on a down note Friday, but losses were relatively minimal. Economic data released during the morning showed weakness in retail sales activity and a downward move in prices at the wholesale level. These both contributed to the notion that the Federal Reserve is unlikely to boost interest rates in September, and could wait until 2017 to make an upward move in the Federal Funds rate.
Nevertheless, the generally positive mood on Wall Street limited losses in major market benchmarks to small fractions of a percentage point, and many individual stocks were able to buck the trend and move higher. Among the best performers were J.C. Penney (JCPN.Q), Sunrun (RUN -5.04%), and Cigna (CI).
J.C. Penney jumps on the retail bandwagon
J.C. Penney climbed 6% after reporting better results in its second-quarter financial report than investors had expected from the discount department-store chain. The retailer said that its net losses fell by more than half, and positive comparable sales of 2.2% lent support to the idea that J.C. Penney is moving in the right direction in its turnaround efforts.
Initiatives like its partnership with cosmetics provider Sephora helped pull more customers into stores, and the retailer again said that it expects its adjusted earnings to be positive for the full 2016 year. With several other department-store operators announcing upbeat results, it was important for J.C. Penney not to get left out of what could be an industry-wide bounce following tough competitive conditions.
Sunrun soaks up big gains
Sunrun soared 15% in the wake of its favorable second-quarter results announced Thursday night. The solar-installation specialist said that it had installed 65 megawatts of residential solar projects during the quarter, topping its previous goal by about 5 megawatts.
The fact that Sunrun managed to post a profit for the quarter, when most investors had expected to see a loss, was huge for the solar company, but skeptics still point out that the company's operating costs are still much higher than not only its national solar-installation competitors, but smaller regional installers, as well. Nevertheless, now that the company was able to generate sales despite a generally tough environment, Sunrun could have further to run if it can build up a competitive advantage against its rivals.
Cigna sees light at the end of the tunnel
Finally, Cigna gained 5%. The health-insurance company got good news in its efforts to complete its merger with industry peer Anthem, as reports surfaced that the U.S. Department of Justice might be willing to come to a settlement with respect to concerns about the competitive impact of mergers and acquisitions in the healthcare arena. For a while now, investors had grown increasingly nervous about whether Anthem's purchase of Cigna would gain final approval, and Cigna shares have been more volatile than you'd expect from an acquisition candidate.
Nevertheless, with the judge overseeing the case suggesting that a final decision likely won't come until after the end of the year, Cigna and the DOJ will have time to negotiate to see if they can resolve the situation amicably.